Easiest Ways to Play with Your Babies and Toddlers to Promote Healthy Development

From Ms Barb and Ms Vanessa at the Lily Pad Lab

1. Blocks
-Stack them and knock them down (cause/effect).
-Line them up and make a train (counting, pre-reading if you line up left to right, fine-motor, language “choo-choo”).
-Sort them by color or size (math readiness).
-Drop them into a bucket (cause/effect, fine-motor, object permanence by looking for the missing blocks).
-Bang them together and its imitation, which is needed to develop language for babies.

2. Teach your child easy baby signs to reduce frustration. Remember communication is the key, not exact pronunciations at this stage. Kids need a way to say what they need/want, and sign language gets the job done. Try “more, all-done, eat, drink, want, and help.” After that, try adding some animal signs or ones more relevant to your family.

3. Sing songs!

4. Read books!

5. Talk about the sounds things make, like animal noises or cars/trucks for example (language development).

6. Let kids empty the “plastic container drawers” and then show them how to put it all back in.  Much of early childhood is spent taking things out and putting them back in again.  Play with boxes and other containers.

7. Roll kids in a blanket (leave head out) and pretend they are a taco.  Add lots of “toppings” by gently or firmly patting them. Talkers can say what they want added, and non-talkers just love to be looked at and talked to.  A gentle tickle is fun too. Kids love this game and enjoy the silliness of it. Parents can also have a turn being the “taco.”

8. Try at least 5 or 10 minutes a day to talk less and give more eye contact to your child. Let the child lead the activity while the parent engages with their presence. Put the phone away and follow your child’s lead. Even if you are quiet the entire 10 minutes and only smile and look into your child’s eyes, you will be amazed at what you find. This activity fills their need to be loved and noticed and cherished.

9. Kids also love to dress up and do pretend play. Even if you don’t have costumes, pretending to be dogs or cars or monsters can be very entertaining for kids (language development and social/emotional health).

10. String beads (or pasta with wide holes, or cheerios).
Play with glue, markers, washable paint, sand, and crayons.

11. Make playdough and play! Those activities are good for fine-motor skills like eye-hand coordination and also language development.

Foxes of Wisconsin

Photo by Ruth Forsgren – Gray fox kits at den near youth camp driveway

Article by Jim Schwiebert, Beaver Creek Reserve Naturalist

Wisconsin is home to two members of the fox family: the red fox and the gray fox. Both types of foxes are about the same size. Gray fox average 10 pounds and are between 32 and 45 inches long. The gray fox is a mix of gray, red, white, and black fur. The hairs along the middle of the back and tail are tipped in black. Sometimes if a gray has a lot of red fur it can be mistaken for a red fox. But, gray fox never have black feet like red fox do, and they also have a black tip to the tail instead a white tip like the red fox.

Gray foxes are not usually seen as often as red fox. Gray fox live in older, thick-forested areas, often near streams and rivers. Red fox are more often found on edges of fields, where they are more visible. Gray fox are more nocturnal (active at night) than red fox. Gray fox make dens from a hollowed tree, rock crevice, or brush pile. They eat a variety of foods including rabbits, mice, vole, chipmunk, eggs, insects, and fruit.

Gray fox are the only fox that can climb trees. They have semi-retractable claws, which means that they can pull their claws partway in somewhat like a cat. The gray fox climb trees to get away from predators like coyotes, to look for food, and sometimes to sleep. Gray fox are also good swimmers.
Gray fox usually have four to five pups that are born in the den in late March or April. The pups are blind at birth and have brown fur. Both mom and dad help with raising the pups.

If you are snowshoeing or cross country skiing in the woods this winter, you may be lucky enough to see one of our state’s two members of the fox family, or some of their tracks

Camp for Kids with Asthma

By Carol Rudd, Healing Choices Oasis

I was one—a kid with asthma. I know what it feels like to be short of breath! I was a sick, asthmatic kid that wasn’t able to exercise much. I missed out on a lot of fun activities with family and friends because my asthma would flare up when I got excited. So, vacations, holidays, stress at school, or even catching a cold could lay me low for weeks. I always wondered, “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this?” I felt something was wrong with me, that I was weak and everyone was better than me. My parents tried to help and overprotected me most of the time, saying, “You shouldn’t go outside, Carol, it’s too cold.” I missed out on a lot of living. As a child, I felt that my asthma controlled me. In my teenage years, I finally started taking control of my asthma. I paid more attention to my breathing, and with avoidance of my triggers, life got a little easier.

I wish someone had told me when I was young that I would live through this. At twenty-five I realized I wasn’t going to die from my asthma and decided I better figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I learned more about my lungs, became a respiratory therapist, and worked with both kids and adults for the last forty-one years. While I never outgrew my asthma, I did learn to live and even thrive with my limitations.

My dream is to help kids (and parents) with asthma learn to live and cope better with the symptoms of asthma and grow to be strong, independent adults. Kamp KiWA (Kids With Asthma) is a half-day camp for elementary-age children (about eight to eleven years old), who are newly diagnosed with asthma or are struggling with symptoms. The program will include tips I have personally learned over the years plus the National Asthma Guidelines and current medication, nutrition, and coping strategies. Additionally, alternative healing practices such as qigong and meditation will be included in this interactive, hands-on learning event. I look forward to helping every child breathe better.

There is only room for twelve students, so call Carol soon at 715-852-0303 to reserve your spot.

Kamp KiWA March 24, 2018
$150 per child (parent is encouraged to attend)
9:00 am to 2:00 pm (includes lunch and snacks)
Healing Choices Oasis, 2711 Pleasant St. Eau Claire, WI

As a licensed massage therapist focused on energy healing, and a registered respiratory therapist, Carol combines the best of Eastern and Western medicine. She opened her massage practice in 2001 offering AMMA Therapy (based in traditional Chinese medicine). Since then she has offered tai chi, qigong, and meditation. Her new adventures include FIT2Breathe! and Kamp KiWA. After forty-one years in the healthcare industry serving those struggling to breathe, she is passionate about offering programs that help children or adults in our community with COPD, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and asthma.

Nonjudgmental Mindfulness Practice in the New Year

By Ann Brand, PhD

January is that time of year we embark on our radical plans for self-improvement. We look at ourselves with dismay, berate ourselves for mistakes and poor choices made in the past year, and come up with a long list of the ways we are going to eat healthier, be more fit, get organized, and improve our flaws. We charge ahead with this ideal in mind, ready to take on the new year. And then by the end of January, we are right back where we started, failing to meet our lofty expectations and kicking our self for blowing our New Year’s resolutions once again. It is an all-too-familiar cycle. Mindfulness practice is one way to interrupt this painful cycle. Mindful awareness can support us in making wise, healthy changes that we can sustain throughout the new year.

Change begins with awareness. We must first pay attention to our present experience, so we can see clearly what needs to change. That means seeing our experience as it is right now, not how we would like it to be. It is difficult to look at the unskillful patterns getting the way of well-being. We might see the ways we are not taking care of ourselves and the well-worn patterns behind our unhealthy habits. Perhaps we drink too much when we are anxious, or eat when we are lonely, or consistently put others’ needs before our own, leading to emotional burnout and poor health. Mindfulness practice supports us in staying present to our experience without judgment. We can see our unskillful patterns with kindness and gentleness instead of the harsh critic of self-improvement. With this clarity, we can make wiser changes that will support us in meeting our goals in sustainable ways.

Change is difficult. Our habits and patterns are engrained, and we are likely to slip up along the way. Maybe we are seeing our goals for the new year as a way of punishing ourselves for past failings. When we make a mistake in meeting those goals, it reinforces this self-punishment, sabotaging our efforts. “See,” our inner critic says, “you will never stop smoking, lose weight, run that marathon,” and then we give up. Mindfulness practice cultivates the awareness needed to keep us out of our judging, reactive mind, allowing us to stay present to our experience with kindness. We can then make a wiser choice to move forward in the face of an obstacle. Maybe the initial goal we set was too big to start with, and instead of giving up, we can see clearly how to readjust to support our long-term well-being. Mindfulness practice fosters the willpower we need to compassionately begin again when we make a mistake.

Maybe your first intention for the new year is to cultivate nonjudgmental present moment awareness through the practice of mindfulness. Try reading a book like Real Happiness by Sharon Salzburg or take a mindfulness class, all in support of changes that lead to sustainable, healthy habits for the year ahead.

Ann Brand, PhD, is a mindfulness meditation teacher and lecturer at UW–Stout in the School of Education. She teaches mindfulness classes in Eau Claire at The Center and can be reached at annbrand365@gmail.com.

Natural Preventions for Cold and Flu Season

By Nyssa Langlois, Writer & Copy Editor for Farm Table Foundation

Winter in the Midwest is renowned for its intense cold; many stay cooped up indoors simply to avoid the icy wind whipping across their faces. Unfortunately, perpetually staying inside, coupled with the many social gatherings taking place around the holidays, tends to lend itself to the spread of nasty colds and the flu. While many respond to these heinous illnesses by venturing to the nearest drugstore to cure their sickness, home remedies can be just as, if not more so, effective in combating colds and the flu. Nancy Graden, owner and operator of Red Clover Herbal Apothecary Farm in Amery, Wisconsin, has been practicing the art of sustainable, plant-based home remedies for several years, and has multiple recommendations for encouraging wellness this season.

First and foremost, hydration is crucial. With this in mind, you can add many natural ingredients to your beverages that will assist in preventing you from becoming sick. Graden’s best recommendation for preventing the flu would be to add elderberries, or elderberry syrup, into your diet. Elderberries have incredibly effective antiviral properties, and Graden uses elderberry concoctions as her natural alternative to a flu shot. Another preventative method, geared more toward colds, would be to drink a mix of hot water and echinacea (commonly known as coneflower) leaves; echinacea contains several elements that help more effectively stimulate the immune system, therefore enhancing your defenses against contracting a cold or flu.

While adding different plants to your drinks is an effective way to prevent the spread of sickness, it is also a good idea to add natural defenses to your food. Nancy highly recommends increasing your garlic consumption; garlic is incredibly helpful when fighting off a cold or a cough due its possession of allicin–a powerful antioxidant. This bulb can easily be added to a variety of dishes and can be used to infuse different oils for more versatility when cooking. Graden recommends adding fresh garlic to meals, as the bulb will lose some of its antioxidant properties once cooked.

Ginger root also combats the common cold and typically helps reduce nausea, which frequently accompanies the flu. Like garlic, ginger can be added to many different recipes and infuse oils, but it can also be used to infuse honey, and it easily spices up different tea blends. Graden recommends a simple blend of honey, lemon, and ginger in hot water during the chilly months to prevent and remedy colds.

Despite our best efforts, sometimes our defensive preparation cannot thwart illness entirely. When illness hits, specifically colds, Graden recommends using eucalyptus essential oils in hot water to stimulate the clearing of sinus infections and to open airways. An additional healing method, particularly for sore throats, Graden recommends gargling with a combination of cayenne and salt water every hour, as the cayenne helps stimulate blood flow to clear infection faster.

For additional preventative and healing techniques through the use of natural products, Nancy Graden can be reached on her website: www.redcloverapothecary.com.

Nyssa Langlois studied at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and worked as a program advisor for World Endeavors. Her current positions are copy editor, writer & server extraordinaire for Farm Table Foundation in Amery, Wisconsin.